The Utah Department of Corrections says it will write new standards for safety and operations at state prisons and county jails — and those standards will be made available to the public. The announcement Friday came after media and civil rights groups had challenged their confidentiality.
It all started when media outlets, including KUER, civil rights groups and families of inmates who died behind bars came forward and started asking this question: How is it that Utah leads the nation in the number of people who die while locked up in county jails? But the standards that guide how facilities are maintained and how inmates are cared for are kept private. A corrections consultant, named Gary DeLand claims to have a copyright on the rules.
Now Rollin Cook, Utah’s prison boss, says the state will collaborate with the Utah Sheriff’s Association to write new standards. And they’ll be public.
“The one thing that we’ve tried to do from the department of corrections point of view is to remain as transparent as possible,” Cook says. “And this gives us that opportunity to build some standards that can be transparent and available to the community.”
Cook says a commission will write the standards over the next year. The Utah Sheriff’s Association has also agreed to release portions of the existing standards online in the coming days.